Echoing Greek tragedy



People not so enlightened as I have told me that if you lock three women in a room together, two will scratch out the third’s eyes. If you lock five men in a room together, three will suck all the oxygen out of the room and suffocate the other two. They will then wonder what happened to the other two when they ask either blue corpse if he would like another beer.

Everyone is primarily interested in his or her story. Why did God make me? Is my life really a dream and everyone else is but a character in it? Did you hear about that game against Newell-Providence in 1974?

It’s been with us since at least those Greeks who told stories through nymphs of love. Narcissus spurned lovely nymph Echo, who took her woman scorned routine to Nemesis, who drew Narcissus to the pond where he saw his reflection and thought: “Three years ago I took a 24-inch walleye through the ice on a wiggler, did I tell you about that one? And 12 perch in just a half hour.”

“And 12 perch in just a half hour,” Echo said.

“Who’s there?” Narcissus said.

“Who’s there?” Echo echoed.

This drove him batty. He’s got this woman in his ear all day, see, throwing his braggadocio back at him and then he fell into that damn still pond. To this day he searches the Underworld for Mr. Whiskers and his own self-love.

The Greeks sorted out pride, vanity, self-indulgence, sex, sex, sex and power through mythology. Our muse was George Jones, who interpreted the white male experience through sad songs of lost love and honky tonk angels to keep you from slipping away. When he died in 2013 the wheels came off. But the lug nuts were loose long before.

You wake up one morning and realize that the pond evaporated, leaving you high and dry. Your boss is a woman, you are working next to a man who uses scented mousse in his hair, and some Harvard suit who sure looks like a Kenyan is sitting in the White House where Andrew Jackson belongs.

There are now gay marriages and interracial marriages. Even female-led marriages.

This was not how Manifest Destiny was supposed to work out.

We get Storm Lake from the Sac, Fox and Lakota. They killed the Gardner family after Henry Lott sold them a bunch of firewater. We drove them to South Dakota, where we carved in stone faces of great white men so that we might gaze upon ourselves and admire our victory of Westward Ho, and that we might remind the Native Americans just who is boss around here.

We broke the prairie and drained it, killed the elk and put up hoghouses. When there was too much work we hauled in Mexicans to do it for us.

This was as it was supposed to be. The golden years after World War II brought the baby boomers unbridled prosperity. Machines replaced horses, and there wasn’t as much room on the farm. They moved to town and got a job that has dropped in buying power by half since 1975. Nobody was listening to their story anymore.

There are about 2,500 of them in Buena Vista County, white guys over age 50 who were reared to think they should have had a silver spoon. That’s just about the Trump/King margin over Clinton/Weaver. He still has his voice.

He is very clear that food stamps are for losers and moochers, not him. And that gays should just zip it, and that blacks in Ferguson need to calm down, and quit trying to tell my cousin who stole the farm how to farm it, and you know, I really don’t like Muslims because they seem to be trying to kill me. Even though I have a gun and know how to use it.

So listen up:

I see my grievance in the President’s scowl.

Those other people are messing up my story.

If we want it, we can take Iraq’s oil. If we want it, we can take the Black Hills or sacred burial sites so long as they are not ours so that we might get more of that oil for shipment to foreign ports. Those guys leaning on a shovel better get cracking or they won’t have a job, much less health insurance. And how are these people supposed to follow the rules we white men wrote if nobody can read English, including me?

The Greeks obviously did not heed their own mythology. They can’t even run a shipping line anymore.

Echo wandered about the glen in an eternity of remorse because her man got lost in himself. If she had met Eve, and they called the shots, Nemesis would have got her comeuppance. But they were shouted down by Zeuss and Thor and Neptune and the rest of the guys from the ice shack.